Harris: Rhodes Scholar is intriguing prospect at the Senior Bowl
Myron Rolle is the kind of young man any father would like for his daughter to marry.
Rolle graduated from Florida State in 3 1⁄2 years and bypassed riches as a likely high pick in last year's NFL Draft after becoming the first major-college football player of his generation to accept a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship at the University of Oxford in England.
His future plans include attending medical school, becoming a neurosurgeon and opening a free medical clinic in his native Bahamas.
This week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Rolle, who amassed 206 tackles and 13 pass deflections in his three-year college career, begins the daunting challenge of convincing pro teams how badly he wants to play after taking a year's sabbatical away from football.
As someone who's preparing for life after football before his professional football career even begins, Rolle has his head screwed on straight -- maybe too straight for some NFL teams.
In a league where former Philadelphia Eagles coach Dick Vermeil bunked overnight at Veterans Stadium and was so consumed in his job that he didn't realize the hometown Phillies were playing in the World Series in the stadium where he frequently slept, complete and total focus is essential for success.
Rolle realizes he must ease the concerns NFL teams may have about his dedication to football.
"The feedback I've been getting is I can still be an early-round pick if I display my talent at the Senior Bowl and the (NFL Scouting) Combine (in February). The questions people have are am I still athletic and what's my commitment to football," said Rolle, who has been training with speed and conditioning coach Tom Shaw in Florida. "I have (other) interests and they want to make sure I'm going to be committed to their franchise and not leave after two years to go to medical school.
"My whole life I wanted to play in the NFL. It was tough to turn down a lot of money (last year); my family never had a lot of money. But furthering your education and increasing your intellect and the experience at Oxford is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I don't regret the decision at all."
Charles Barkley was wrong. Athletes like Rolle can be role models to impressionable, star-struck kids, delivering the heartfelt message that education is vitally important to their lives.
But, Rolle -- who will return to Oxford in March to complete his studies in medical anthropology -- has to make an NFL roster before he can spread the word.
Reviews are mixed on Rolle, a strong safety, who will be on display for scouts this week along with Southern Cal's Taylor Mays, this year's top safety prospect and a projected first-round pick.
Bypassing the 2009 draft took a dent out of Rolle's wallet. Some mock drafts had him being selected in the first two rounds a year ago, but that's no longer the case. Scouts Inc. rates Rolle as the 15th-best safety prospect. NFLDraftScout rates Rolle as the seventh-best safety. Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. projects Rolle being a late-round pick.
Safety is considered among the deepest positions in this year's draft. It could also be a position of need for the Steelers, who eagerly anticipate the return next season of strong safety Troy Polamalu from a knee injury. The Steelers also have to decide whether to re-sign free safety Ryan Clark, an unrestricted free agent, or retain veteran safety Tyrone Carter.
While training in Florida last week, Rolle enlisted the advice of a couple of Steelers players, inside linebacker James Farrior and cornerback Ike Taylor, who also were working out with Shaw.
"Ike gave me great advice on staying humble, staying grounded, staying focused, staying hungry and leaning on veterans. He leaned on Deshea Townsend and Joey Porter and he said it helped him immensely," Rolle said. "I talked to James about how do I approach the Senior Bowl because he played in the game when he came out of college. He told me it's a great way to display your abilities, and that teams want to see how much information you can retain.
"I think a lot of guys go into the draft sort of with a sense of entitlement. Some guys want it really badly. Others feel that all they have to do is go through the motions, but I'm of the mind-set of the hunter. I want to prove myself and show I'm still the player I was before I left for Oxford."